Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D (Titan)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: Exton
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in D (Titan)
PERFORMER: Royal Stockholm PO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: EXCL-00034

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The restless intelligence of Sakari Oramo is responsible for both the electrifying and the less edifying aspects of this stand-alone Mahler One. Unquestionably he brings sounds and textures to our ears I’ve heard from no one else: once I’d got over the feeling that there was some outside intrusion going on, I liked the second-violin whoops as the wayfarer’s happy country tramp gets under way in the first movement. The vibratoed village-band trumpets are excellent in the funeral procession, and all the little dewy interjections at the dawn of time make their mark. 

But perhaps some of the gestures over-project. There’s little of the misty and mysterious once the woodwind chip into the opening, or the canon solos weave their web around the ‘frère Jacques’ tune of the third movement. I found what ought to be the increasingly soulful, inward trio sections of the middle movements relentlessly prodded by fantastical detail; and in the first movement there’s one far too precipitate a speeding up before the development hurtles to an admittedly explosive climax. The impression’s of an impetuous adolescent – not entirely inappropriate for Mahler’s sweet song of youth – rather than a master of musical philosophy such as the effortless but never passionless Abbado offers in the last Lucerne DVD release. 

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The Stockholm musicians play very well for Oramo, with horns full and throaty when required and plenty of incisiveness in the finale’s turbulent marching. But there’s also a slight hollowing-out of the sound which may be either the orchestra’s or the venue’s fault. An insightful venture, all the same. David Nice